Book notes: The Soulful Art of Persuasion by Jason Harris

The Soulful Art of Persuasion by Jason Harris book summary review and key ideas.

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The Soulful Art of Persuasion: The 11 Habits That Will Make Anyone a Master Influencer by Jason Harris


“Jason Harris, CEO of the powerhouse creative agency, Mekanism, argues that genuine persuasion in the 21st century is about developing character rather than relying on the easy tactics of flattery, manipulation, and short-term gains. It is about engaging rather than insisting; it is about developing empathy and communicating your values. Based on his experience in and out of the boardroom, and drawing on the latest in-depth research on trust, influence, and habit formation, Harris shows that being persuasive in a culture plagued by deception means rejecting the ethos of the quick and embracing the commitment of putting your truest self forward and playing the long game.

Through instructive and entertaining stories, Harris lays out the 11 habits that will guide listeners to become authentically persuasive, including

  • Earning respect through collaboration
  • Becoming the person others want to be around
  • Practicing generosity through gestures big and small

Persuasion today is about personal excellence, sharing the stage, and respecting other people’s motivations. In The Soulful Art of Persuasion, Jason Harris shows us the way.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

This book came out very recently and I think I saw it because Gary Vaynerchuk was highly recommending this book on Instagram. There aren’t any reviews, but the synopsis sounds good and a recommendation from Gary means a lot in my opinion. Therefore, I do expect the book to be pretty high-value. Especially considering Gary says he never reads books either, lol.

Key notes:

  • Persuasion had more to do with the kind of person they really are
    • Persuasive people aren’t skilled at sweet talking their audience, but rather they are the individuals we want to agree with
    • They have qualities that compel us to be on their side and trust them
  • Genuine and soulful persuasion is about engaging rather than insisting
  • 4 main categories of personal dispositions that make you persuasive
    1. Originality – They speak with authenticity and honesty
    2. Generous – Give habitually and without expecting things in return
    3. Empathetic – Naturally curious about other people and seek out engaging conversations that delve past small talk into topics that genuinely matter to others
    4. Soulful – They hold themselves to their own self imposed, ethical and personal standards
      • Always strive to be better and motivate others to push beyond their normal limits
      • They are sources of inspiration for those around them
  • At some level, all of us are in the business of persuading

Principle 1: Original

Chapter 1: turn and face the strange

  • Weirdness isn’t something to fight against, it’s something to wrap your arms around
    • David Bowie gave him license to be his own strange and unique self 
  • Character is king
    • Persuasion is about a personal character, not facts or argument
    • Often what persuades people isn’t a substance of what’s being said, but the source, the person saying it
    • Character isn’t it just a list of ethical rules you try to follow or the personal beliefs you hold
      • It is also made up of the habits and dispositions that you display without thinking
  • Being authentic and opening yourself up to scrutiny conveys confidence. When it comes to persuasion, confidence is power
  • Don’t use the perilous speech
    • Use more powerful language when talking about your convictions
  • Methods to avoid insincerity and deception:
    1. Put your true self out there
    2. Speak and act with confidence
    3. Collect role models
    4. Boldly follow your core values
  • Confidence is feeling safe to be yourself, and that comes from conviction and knowing who you are

“You will never influence the world by trying to be like it”

Sean McCabe

Chapter 2: The Persuasive Power of Storytelling

  • In today’s world of advertising, you have to relate to your audience in a more emotional, truthful, and soulful way if you want to make a connection
  • Storytelling is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively
    • Storytelling may have played an essential role in the evolution of human cooperation by broadcasting social and cooperative norms to coordinate group behavior 
  • Information that is presented in stories is 22x more memorable then straight facts
  • Fundamental rules of persuasive storytelling:
    1. Start with a simple truth
      • You need to know what the message is before you begin
      • Great storytellers are also truth seekers
        • Their aim is to convey a central human truth through narrative
    2. Stick to a classic structure
      • The goal: who are your characters and what do they want. Their motivation has to be strong enough to propel the story.
      • The obstacle: what’s in their way?
      • The resolution: what is the outcome? 
        • Read out all the details and collect main point of the story is conveying
  • Technique 2: Storytelling is editing
    • Ask three specific questions:
      1. Am I giving the audience all the right information?
      2. Am I painting a vivid enough picture?
      3. What can I cut?
    • A good rule of thumb is it takes a minute to speak 125 words
      • The best stories don’t last more than a couple minutes, so when you write it out, don’t go over 250 to 300 words
  • Technique 3: Rehearse 
    • First, read it out verbatim to familiarize yourself with it
      • You simply need a firm enough grasp on the basic structure and details
    • Next, use a recording device to keep your self honest
      • Memorize your first and last lines
  • Technique 4: Learn from the best
  • Technique 5: Don’t overlook familiar stories
    • New stories get a novelty penalty to listeners
      • They are more likely to enjoy a story they know then one they don’t
    • Unlike novel stories, familiar stories activate listeners memories of their own past experience and are therefore likely to elicit rich emotions
    • The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor

Chapter 3: Never be closing 

  • Emphasizing your humanity and forging human relationships is what pays real dividends when your goal is to win someone over
  • When we are swayed to a particular decision we are often evaluating the person delivering the message, their character and motivations as much as anything else
  • People / humans with a purpose are more persuasive than brands 
  • Effective persuaders care about purpose
  • Playing the long game sacrifices opportunities for immediate gain in the service of the big picture 
  • The long game is about forging relationships, not being transactional
    • It is about pulling people towards your way of seeing things by engaging them on a human level 
  • When people think they’re being persuaded, they are often less likely to be won over
  • Rules on how to play the long game:
    1. Never sell anything you wouldn’t by yourself
    2. The simple power of no
    3. Never let relationships drop to zero
      • Truly persuasive people care more about relationships than transactions
      • The most common relationship killer is simply neglect
      • Set a repeating reminder to check in with people, usually quarterly
        • Connect four: pick four people per week to get in touch with
      • Shift from social to personal
        • Instead of just simply sharing something on social media, go through your contacts and share it with a specific person it is relevant to
      • Bring people together
        • Look for opportunities to introduce people 
      • Treat “no” as a “no for now”
    4. Put some skin in the game.
      • We naturally want generous people to succeed and we generally want to agree with them
      • That’s why when you give, you end up getting

Principle 3: Generous

Chapter 4: Give Yourself Away

“They who give have all the things. They who withhold have nothing”

Hindu Proverb
  • How to be generous: give something away in every interaction 
    • Money is the least generous thing you can give
      • More meaningful gifts are time, attention, and patience
    • What you can give: advice, information, and recommendations
    • How to be generous: complements and recognition
  • When things go wrong, resist the urge to assign blame to one person
    • Acknowledge what went wrong, but do it in honest, clear, and kind manner
    • Being generous in defeat just as important as being generous in victory
    • Be honest and specific with your praise
  • Giving gifts and stuff 
    • When he buys himself something that he really loves, he’ll buy one or two more copies for someone else so that he has good gifts ready
  • When being generous and giving, you can’t expect anything in return
    • Being generous will make you a happier person and will create stronger relationships and bonds with those in your life

Chapter 5: The Pull of Positivity

  • Soulful persuasion is all about cultivating character. The kind of character that gives off positivity by default
  • Positive people display a kind of generosity, a generosity of spirit
  • Habitually positive individuals are the kind of people that others like having around 
  • When it comes time to sway people, positivity is your best friend
  • Positivity is contagious 
  • Having a daily gratitude routine is very effective to cultivating a positive outlook
  • Criticize constructively with positivity
    • Make sure the aim of any criticism is to help the other person improve and that the link between your comments and the person’s goal is made explicit 
  • A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it’s not open 
    • Part of maintaining an open mind is recognizing that on any given issue there is a chance you might be wrong 
  • Get excited because framing your mind this way affects your performance
  • People surround themselves with people who reflect who they want to be and how they want to feel
    • Positivity breeds influence

Chapter 6: Just a little respect

“Knowledge will give you power, but character will give you respect”

Bruce Lee
  • The golden rule: If you wanna get along in any social environment, you need to treat others as you want to be treated, with respect
  • One key to being a respectful person is reliability
    • A reliable person is someone who does what they say they will and doesn’t make promises they can’t keep
  • Respecting time: the lost art of being present
    • It’s been said that 80% of success is showing up, bringing your full self to every interaction is one of the purest forms of respect 
  • Respecting your mistakes: taking responsibility

Principle 3: Empathetic

  • If you can’t make sense of why someone disagrees with you, your odds of changing their mind aren’t very good
  • You need to speak to the values, concerns, and believes that matter most to your audience
  • Empathetic people are natural persuaders

Chapter 7: It’s Not Me, It’s Us

  • Empathy is the capacity to recognize and make sense of another persons feelings
    • It’s the ability to get another person
    • When somebody gets us, it’s easier to agree with them 
  • In politics today, we assume the worst about our political opponents instead of seeing them as fellow human beings who have reached a different conclusion on these complicated issues
    • This is the same in-group out-group thinking that motivates racism, sexism, xenophobia, another poisonous forms of discrimination 
  • Empathy and specificity prove more effective in influencing peoples opinions and re-framing the conversation than any argument ever could 
  • Be naturally curious about others
    • If you want to get on someone’s good side, ask them about them
  • Curiosity is a skill that can be learned
    • Curiosity is about suppressing your sense that you know everything worth knowing
    • Share something about yourself and then invite the other person to do the same afterwards
  • Think outside your group and spend some time with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with
  • Listen more, judge less
    • Treat conversations as opportunities to be proven wrong
      • Ask yourself: why would a smart person hold these beliefs? 
    • Admit when you don’t understand something 
    • Ask how the other person came to hold their beliefs
    • Re-state their views in the best possible light
  • The principle of charity: if you’re going to challenge someone’s position, you need to start with the best version of it 
  • Look for common ground
    • It’s essential to find aspects of the position you agree with 
  • Understanding their motives and values will make it easier for you to state your own views in a way that doesn’t push them away but rather pulls them in because they will feel that you understand them

Chapter 8: The Collaboration Imperative

“If you would persuade, think of interest, not of reason”

Benjamin Franklin
  • The tendency to seek out collaboration and work constructively with others is an essential element of being persuasive
    • Collaboration can compel us to change our minds about fundamental issues more effectively
  • Ask for small favors, the Ben Franklin Effect
    • Asking for advice is similar to asking for a favor
  • Give honest encouragement 
  • Think outside the silo

Chapter 9: Common Ground

  • Genetically we are 99.9% similar, almost entirely identical
    • However, we spend a lot of time and energy fixating on the 0.1% that makes us different
  • Humans are really good at dividing the world
    • When it comes to developing a persuasive character, it’s crucial that you habitually focus on the things that unite each of us instead of the things that divide us
  • Social identity: being persuasive has a lot to do with whether the person you are addressing recognizes you as a member of their team
  • A disposition that puts people at ease and makes it easy for them to open up will always improve your chances of finding the common ground
  • Seek commonalities, not differences
    • Identify points of agreement

Principle 4: Soulful

Chapter 10: The Importance of Skill Hunting

  • Some peoples influence flows from their relationship to their skill
    • It requires a concern for doing things well and properly
  • Skill hunting work ethic involves displaying the type of character that carries influence
    • Skillful people are more persuasive
    • Tim Ferriss is a prime example of someone who has the skill-hunting mindset 
  • A life hack is something that gets the job done but in an inefficient, in optimal, or ugly way
  • Both quantity and quality of practice matters 
  • A skill-hunting mindset values process as much as the finished product
    • The difference between task-based and skill-based approaches is the difference between learning a single great recipe and studying the fundamentals of cooking
      • Between cramming for an exam and mastering a field of knowledge
      • Between counting calories and adopting a balanced healthy diet 
  • The skill-based mindset is about valuing the way something is done just as much as the end results
    • It’s about how just as much as what
  • The most essential part of acquiring any skill is learning to engage in what’s called deliberate practice
    • Focused, systematic practice that is designed to put you out of your comfort zone 
    • This works in short bursts and with high intensity until your attention falters 
  • The two-year skill hunt: pick up a major new skill to learn every other year
    • What matters is you’re genuinely motivated to learn it, not master it 
  • There’s no growth in comfort
  • Passions not hobbies
    • Start thinking of things you devote time to as passions, a domain of skill or knowledge that you value for its own sake and strive to get better at it
    • Instead of using it as an activity to pass time pleasantly, treat it as a pursuit that demands deliberate practice
      • Turning your casual enjoyment into skillful engagement is always more satisfying
  • Quality over quantity
    • It is better to do a few things proficiently then to be terrible at a long list of things
  • When it comes to persuasion, one of the most important abilities you can develop is that of handling facts skillfully and responsibly
    • People who are known for getting their facts right and who excel at sorting good information from bad are more trustworthy and influential
  • Over time, the high standards and commitment to quality you display will come to find you in the eyes of others
    • Skill and influence will follow

Chapter 11: Personal Jesus

  • There’s no better motivator in the world than inspiration
    • When we feel inspired to accomplish a goal, we are motivated in a life affirming, pleasurable, energizing way
    • It fills us with a sense of possibility and gives us the determination to push ourselves beyond our normal limits
  • Striving to be inspirational in your daily life is one of the most powerful strategies for becoming a more persuasive person
    • Inspiring others is about living a life of principles, moving others to challenge their preconceptions of what’s possible, and even doing some good in the world
  • One common denominator of inspirational people is their extraordinary principles and integrity
    • They were willing to put their beliefs into action even when doing so wasn’t popular and meant risking their own immediate interests
      • In so doing, they were able to change the way those around them thought and acted 
    • Muhammad Ali is a prime example when he risked his entire career to stand up for his beliefs against the vietnam war
  • It only takes one person to break the spell of the bystander effect
    • And this is the role that the inspirational person plays
How to be inspirational:
  • Preach less
    • Instead, turn your beliefs into reality, even in a small and incremental way
  • Use your powers for good
    • Find ways to use your particular gifts towards a cause
  • Integrity is the kind of personal harmony that comes from when your abilities, actions, values, and goals all line up
  • Inspirational people seek out causes that advance their values 
    • Inspirational people reach out to their heroes
  • Soulful persuasion is inspiring them to make a specific choice of their own free will
    • You are leaving the decision up to them
  • At its best, persuasion is the most positive, productive and ethical way of changing peoples minds 
    • Character is a necessary component for a companies long-term success
  • If you want to wield influence, you have to become the kind of person people genuinely want to agree with
    • An original, generous, empathetic, and soulful person
  • Following these practices helps to form habits

Habits to Form

  1. Being your own weird self makes it difficult for people to see you as phony or manipulative and allows them to recognize you as a unique individual
  2. The power of storytelling will help you to re-frame contentious issues and your point of you in a way that resonates on a human level
  3. Never be closing and avoiding the hard sell will help demonstrate that you care about things other than your own immediate gain
  4. Give yourself away by seeking to give away something in every interaction
  5. The pool of positivity counteract the negative emotions that separate us 
  6. Just a little respect can neutralize toxic us-versus-them thinking
  7. “It’s not me, it’s us” helps us empathize with others 
  8. Collaboration will make others see you as a part of their team
  9. Finding common ground involves learning to see people as basically similar
  10. Skill hunting brings a high level of proficiency to everything you do 
  11. Being a source of inspiration for others

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Soulfully persuasive people have qualities that compel us to be on their side and trust them
  • Persuasive people have 4 characteristics: original, generous, empathetic, and soulful
  • Character is king; persuasion is all about personal character
  • Storytelling is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively
  • Emphasizing your humanity and forging human relationships is key to winning someone over
  • Give something away in every interaction; always seek to add value
  • Positivity is a generosity of spirit that others want to be around
  • Golden Rule: always treat others with respect – this includes reliability
  • Empathetic people are natural persuaders
  • Empathy is the capacity to recognize and make sense of another person’s feelings
  • Curiosity is about suppressing your sense that you know everything worth knowing
  • Listen more, judge less. Ask: Why would a smart person hold these beliefs?
  • The principle of charity: if you’re going to challenge someone’s position, you need to start with the best version of it
  • Seek out collaboration and work constructively with others
  • Seek commonalities, not differences
  • Skill-hunting work ethic involves displaying the type of character that carries influence
  • Skill-based mindset values the way something is done as much as the results
  • Striving to be inspirational is one of the most powerful strategies to becoming a more persuasive person
  • Be inspirational by preaching less and using your powers for good

Closing thoughts:

I loved this book because it really re-frames how we see persuasion as well as challenges normal conventions of what a persuasive person is like. I can see why Gary Vaynerchuk really likes this book because it talks about all of the things he preaches. He always preaches about empathy as being one of the most important things. He’s also about taking action and DOING in order to persuade, as well as adding value to others first and foremost.

I think this is one of those books that everyone should read about. It’s a great book that will increase your quality of life and help you live a happier and more soulful life with better interactions and relationships.

Overall, highly recommend for almost everyone no matter what your career path or walk of life you come from.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

There are so many good takeaways in this book, but my choice for the one thing I want to start putting into practice is:

  • Always seek to give something away (add value) in every interaction

The author gives examples of things that are more valuable than money or resources, such as: time, attention, patience, advice, information, recommendations, compliments and recognition.

He also says how positivity is a generosity of spirit and has the added effect of being contagious. I already strive to do this in most of my interactions, but I think this should be a focus for me moving forward to get even better at. This is definitely something worth taking to the next level.


Redefining what persuasion really is and how to become more persuasive. The true art of soulful persuasion comes from being original, generous, empathetic, and soulful.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


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